Ukraine Sees First Orthodox Christmas Under Shadow Of War (Worthy News Radio)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/MOSCOW (Worthy News) – Church services have begun in Ukraine to mark the first Orthodox Christmas since Russia invaded the country last year. Believers gathered despite violations of an Orthodox Christmas truce announced by Moscow.
Under the shadow of war, hundreds of worshipers attended an Orthodox Christmas service in Kyiv led by Metropolitan Epiphanius. Prayers reverberated throughout the Holy Dormition Cathedral at the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery in the Ukrainian capital.
Others also observed Ukraine’s first Orthodox Christmas since the Russian invasion in February. And at least some worshipers gathered in a home as the church was damaged by shelling.
Orthodox Christmas is later than the December 25 Christmas date celebrated by other Christians. It was moved when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
Under the previous Julian calendar, it happened later. As a result, many Orthodox Christians still observe the original January date before the announced 16th-century reforms.
With many people worshipping, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a 36-hour Orthodox Christmas truce. But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rejected the offer saying the ceasefire was a cynical ploy.
On Orthodox Christmas Eve, Zelensky effectively urged Russians to rise against Russian President Putin and reject his ordered invasion of Ukraine.
“Everyone in the world knows how the Kremlin uses respite in the war to continue the war with renewed vigor,” he said.
“And to end the war faster, something completely different is needed. The citizens of Russia must find the courage in themselves, at least for 36 hours, at least during Christmas, to free themselves from their shameful fear of one person in the Kremlin.”
Ukrainian authorities also said Russian attacks continued during Moscow’s announced Orthodox Christmas truce, including on the southern city of Kherson.
Russian forces reportedly struck a fire station in Kherson in an attack that left several people dead or wounded.
Moscow said it respected its unilateral ceasefire with the Russian Defense Ministry accusing Ukraine’s forces of continued shelling.
Russian President Putin’s temporary truce order came after ceasefire calls from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s spiritual leader, Patriarch Kirill, a staunch Putin supporter.
Yet Putin stood alone at a midnight service at a Kremlin church as he marked Orthodox Christmas darkened by Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.
Putin attended the service at the Cathedral of the Annunciation, originally designed as a church for the Russian tsars.
Orthodox priests in golden robes conducted the ceremony holding long candles, while Putin was seen making the cross sign.
But peace seemed far away this Orthodox Christmas as Russia is unwilling to withdraw, and more Western weapons are arriving in Ukraine.
The United States said it would provide a new weapons aid package for Ukraine and its neighbors worth more than $3.75 billion.
Those deliveries include several dozen Bradley fighting vehicles for the first time, the White House announced.
And there is human suffering, with Ukraine claiming nearly 111,000 Russian troops have been killed in the war, significantly higher estimates than those provided by Russian and Western authorities.
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